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E-Book Publishing Profits

Book publishing is entering a new era.

Books are moving away from paper to digital, or e-books. Much like what happened to the music industry and CDs when MP3 players such as the iPod hit the market, the e-book is gaining traction as a more convenient, environmentally-friendly alternative to printed books.

I know it’s been more convenient for my family. When we moved to Costa Rica a few months back, we didn’t have the space to bring down books. Hello e-books, which only take up space on your hard drive. This includes children’s books for my son, as well as the science fictions series I’m into.

E-books can be downloaded instantly and are often cheaper than their paper counterpart, which attracts customers. Thanks to devices such as the Nook, iPad, and Kindle, e-books are slowly but surely eroding the traditional publishing model.

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The Traditional Publishing Model

A few years ago, if you wanted to become a published writer, you had to find an agent. And that agent had to like your idea enough to think they could sell it to a publishing house. If the publishing house thought they could sell your book, they would assign you an editor. Then the editor and you would work on the manuscript until both of you were happy with the end result. If the publishing company still thought they could sell your book, they would turn it over to their marketing department. And then (finally!) your book would hit the market.

And nine times out of 10, your book wouldn’t make any money at all. Look at all the people above who worked on your book. Their salary has to come from somewhere – and that somewhere is from your book’s profits. Those are just cold, hard facts.

Only the top bestsellers, like those written by Stephen King or Nora Roberts, actually turned a profit. Even if your book was adored by the critics and even won some awards, chances are you (the writer) would still need to keep your day job.

And forgot about setting up your own publishing house. The costs of printing are huge – not to mention all the upfront capital you have to pour into the business to get it started.

Publishing an E-Book

Thanks to the digital revolution, publishing a book has never been easier. If you have access to a computer, you can be your own one-stop publishing house: writer, editor, marketing department, everything. That means every cent your book makes will end up in your pocket.

Here’s another ray of light: you don’t even have to write the e-book you’re selling!

Wait a Minute… I Don’t Have to Write Anything?

It’s true. Books that are in the public domain are books that are no longer covered by their copyright. That means anyone has the right to publish them…and profit from them!

(See my article “Proven Products – Yours for the Taking” for public domain guidelines.)

Check out and Those are just two sites where you’ll find hundreds of public domain books that you can publish in a digital format and profit from.

If you find a print copy of a public domain book, you can easily convert the book to a clean, digital format. If you’re not technically savvy, try They can take any book and scan it into a Word document and PDF.

Once you have it in a digital format, you can add new images, update the information, add a new introduction, even tinker with the format. With just a few small tweaks, you can take an old, “out-dated” book and really give it a new and updated polish.

Here are just a few of the writers in the public domain who you may have heard of: Shakespeare, the Brothers Grimm, Dickens, and Mark Twain.

But Wait! I Want To Write and Publish My Own E-Book!

No problem! In fact, this gives you the satisfaction of knowing that you added something totally unique to the marketplace – a very nice (and marketable) position to be in.

First, you have to decide what kind of e-book you’ll be writing. Let’s start with the big-picture and work our way down: Fiction or nonfiction? Are you a Romance Lit lover and always thought you could write one of your own? That’s great – because Romance Literature is the #1 bestselling fiction genre.

Independent e-book author Amanda Hocking has several book series out, including a “paranormal” romance series featuring vampires. She self-publishes her own books and has sold hundreds of thousands of copies – at $7 each.

But hey, maybe romance – or fiction – isn’t your thing. Maybe golf is. Great! Because however well fiction sells, as a whole, non-fiction sells even better. People love informational books. Do you feel passionate about golf? Real estate? Politics? Did you have a unique childhood? Does a relative of yours have a first-hand account of some historical event? All these can be turned into a great non-fiction e-book.

And the other great thing about all these topics – and Amanda’s vampire books too – is they tap into profitable themes and topics. That’s key if you hope to make any money with your e-books. You have to tap into hot trends. And that takes some market research.

Scan the bestseller lists. See what’s featured prominently in your local bookstore. Look at what you’re reading. What you’re friends and family are reading. From there you should get an idea of topics that will make for a bestseller.

The trick to writing an e-book is to actually write it. And I’m not being trite: if you want to sell your own product, you first need a product to sell. The best advice I can give you is this: sit down and write the thing. Don’t get hung up on the first chapter. Don’t spend a month looking for that perfect opening sentence.

Sit down and write. Nothing more, nothing less. Once you have the thing done, that’s when you take off your “writer” cap and put on your “editor” cap. Go back and clean up your manuscript. Move paragraphs around if you feel the structure could be better. Add more info here, delete some there. And don’t forget to spell-check!

Time to Sell

So you have a clean digital form of your e-book, whether it’s your own or a public domain work, including a nice layout and cover (which you can hire a graphic designer to do on for $20), and you’re ready to sell.

Now what? First, since you’re selling your book online, set up your own website (I like using for all my domain and hosting needs) and start selling your e-book.

Once you have your e-book published, time to get the word out. After all, if people don’t know about your book, how will they know to buy it? It’s time to get involved in social media! Set up Facebook and Twitter accounts, if you don’t already have them. Find websites that cater to your specific genre and see if your book can be featured there.

It’s all about word of mouth on the Internet. Use SEO to improve the visibility of your website and build it up with free content, such as short videos or excerpts from your book. Use forums and mailing lists to grow an online following. Above all, keep active and get your message out there!


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Best of luck!

John Hollister

P.S. I’ve just given you the facts and advice you need to publish and sell your very own e-book. But here are a few extra resources that will help you succeed in this exciting, profitable field.


E-Book Creations and Marketing Tips

Market Research

Public Domain Work Sources

Designing Your E-Books

Most Popular

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  1. Maxine de Villefranche May 11, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    To John Hollister: I am impressed that you managed to move to Costa Rica. I own a farm just 27 km south of San Isidro de El General in the Southern Zone of Costa Rica and I am desperately trying to find a way to move to my farm as soon as possible before the economic situation here in the USA turns any uglier. However, I am stuck in the “rat race” working as an attorney (for myself fortunately). I envy you and wish I could get the heck out of here before the proverbial”[email protected]# hits the fan”. I would have no money to live on if I move there now. I am building a website to sell my services as a copywriter, being trained by AWAI. I have also started writing short children’s books but need an illustrator. You gave me some ideas on how to get started. I greatly appreciate the article.

  2. Tom Justin May 13, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    That’s a great resource list in one place.

    If you submit a public domain book to Amazon for Kindle, you will be in violation of their terms of service and be not only rejected but possibly banned.

    Also, if you publish a book on Apple’s iAuthor, unless they’ve changed it, they want it exclusively. So be sure to check closely.

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